11 days at sea
To say I’m not keen on the idea of cruising would be a bit like Joan of Arc saying she didn’t much fancy fire.
Indeed, if informative nautical documentaries like The Love Boat have taught me anything, it’s that the combination of sea-going vessels and a never-ending, all-you-can-eat smorgasbord buffet typically ends in tragedy.
Yet here I am, boarding the 293-metre long, 88,500 tonne Carnival Legend in an apparent perverse desire to sail from Sydney to Vanuatu (and later New Caledonia) at a speed so slow I have to wonder whether a rowboat might be quicker.
My worst seagoing fears are quickly realised. Stepping aboard, I’m instantly overcome by a debilitating wave of nausea – and that’s just because of the tacky interior styling that appears to be channelling the faded pokies room at my local RSL. In a fevered panic, I pray for an impromptu dose of scurvy to finish me off mercifully. And we haven’t even left the dock yet.
More bars than Long Bay Jail
As I quickly discover, the ship offers me the chance to do the type of stuff I’d never feel the need to consider doing on dry land, such as coming last in an Abba trivia contest, or mentally calculating the seemingly suspect passenger-to-lifeboat ratio. Even more concerning is the giant top deck water slide that threatens to turn the unwitting into prospective candidates for orthopedic intervention.
All this, combined with the gratingly cheerful PA prattle of the Cruise Director, ensures the trip quickly descends into an experience that demands extreme liquor consumption. Luckily, the ship has more bars than Long Bay Jail. Sadly, the alcohol costs as much as rare metal – the type probably used in advanced ocean floor shipwreck detection systems. But this being a holiday, I don’t care about running up a tab that will likely equal the GDP of Tuvalu (USD$38 million, apparently).
Schooling on the high seas
I’m not sure if it’s the Long Island Iced Teas talking, but I do have to admit numerous entertaining high points. Top of the list is seeing how long I can ward off the onset of claustrophobia and insanity due to the cupboard-like confines of my deceptively titled “stateroom”. Or seeing who can accrue the largest and most unnecessary mountain of food on their plate at lunchtime, possibly after being informed of imminent global famine or an on-ship visit by Matt Preston.
Then there are the great educational benefits. When we arrive at Noumea, for instance, I enjoy the experience of being rudely treated by French shopkeepers without the expense of actually having to visit France. And thanks to my room’s outstanding ocean view, I get a top preview of my front veranda outlook following a serious dose of climate change-induced sea level rise.
After 11-days all at sea, I have to admit that there might just be some merit to cruising through life, after all.